Time Travel at Bain’s Kloof Pass, South Africa
Journalist Dawne Fester gives her report from Wolvenkloof Convict Station, September 1853
“Superintendent Jonathon Short is everywhere at once, with his eagle eye on each and every activity. Flowers, reeds and grasses adorn a newly made arch that will mark the entrance to the new bridge at Wolvenkloof, to be named in honor of the chairman of the Central Roads Board, P. B. Borcherds. A banner is being painted in bright colors that will be hung on the arch stating, “FAMA SEMPER VIRET” (“A good name will live forever”)
There are hectic doings around the cooking fires where food for festivities is being cut, chopped, roasted, fried, boiled and baked. Dishwashers assure me that they never believed this road would ever be able to be built. Now they will be able to visit their families on the other side of the mountains.
Some convicts continue their labors with chiseling stone and smoothing the road. The chaplain, Reverend W. D. Fleischer has tried to improve the sorry situation of the convicts’ lack of education. He teaches convicts skills in mathematics and grammar in an improvised schoolroom outdoors.
The constable has endeavored to teach some convicts to play musical instruments and soon the lively tunes that fill the air are irresistible. Many servants take time to join in the dancing. Even Dr. F. W. Muntingh from Wellington joins in the merriment. He tells me, “Dancing is better for one’s health than medicines. One needs to keep people happy while nature is curing most other bodily ills.”
Great excitement explodes in the camp as everyone realizes that the infamous criminal convict Anthony Jack, is attempting an escape. Just as swiftly as he leapt into the bush in the dire desperation of a hopeless getaway he is apprehended by Lammert, a fellow convict. For his brave and successful actions, Lammert is presented the “Blue Jacket” symbolizing his release from captivity and the promise of a new start in life as a freed man.
We all together, servants, convicts, wardens and constables, close this day by partaking in a simple meal. Thanks to visionary men like Mr. Andrew Bain, and of course Superintendent Jonathon Short, we are celebrating the greatness of a project that will connect us forever.”